Hayden Richards: Taking time to capture space

Stu Nettle
Talking Heads

On the eve of his first photography exhibition, Swellnet chats with Hayden Richards - AKA Rich Richards, AKA Mr SA Rips - who wanders South Australia's desert coast, capturing its many moods. The secret to his unique work, says Rich, is time spent on that timeless coast.

Swellnet: Hey Rich, you've got an exhibition at the Shimmer Festival, is this your first exhibition?
Rich: Yes. It's my first exhibition. In fact, I've never even been to an exhibition before. None.

So the first exhibition you've ever attended is your own..?
That's right.

Love it! OK a bit of history. Is photography a full-time gig for you?
Well, I was running the caravan park out there [Elliston] up until two years ago, but that ended, so yeah, photohgraphy fills in my days now.

And how long have you been shooting for?
About six years.

That's not a very long time considering the standard you're shooting at. What sort of training did you have?
No training. I went and visited my brother in Melbourne and there was a camera in a shop, so I bought it and that's where it all started. Just a cheap digital SLR camera.

Fair dinkum?
Yes. I just shot a few random people around the streets and whatnot. My bro said, "Shit, they look pretty good," and I just kept doing it. It became addictive. I enjoy doing it and then getting back and looking at the photos and really loving them. I just kept wanting to improve, start experimenting, going down different paths.

I recall a quote from Jon Frank, who I'm sure you're aware of, saying that life didn't make sense to him till he saw world through a viewfinder.
That's pretty spot on for me too. When I'm looking through a viewfinder, it's only then I feel I'm in the moment. I feel like things are coming together. I just feel like I'm a part of the planet more in some way.

Moon Dune

That's a peculiar way to put it because you live on a very wild stretch of coast, and more than anyone you've captured the spirit of that coastline. 
I'm lucky that my missus gives me time to do what I do, so I can spend a lot of time out in those open spaces. As the months and the years go on, I'm improving and I'm slowly discovering what it is I'm looking for. So it's becoming easier for me. A lot of my work owes itself to time spent out in those rugged places and getting the feel for them.

For example, if I'm at a sand dune area for the first time and I run up the hill, not often do I get the magic straightaway. It could take two, three days in a certain area to get that magic and that's probably feeling that area and just working out its moods.

Again, interesting you say that, because I know some landscape photographers who strategise or plan their work. They can be many hundreds, or even thousands of kilometres away, and think about what they're going to shoot. Yet you've actually got to be there, immersed in it.
That's why I prefer landscapes to surf photography. When companies get me on a little mission, say Patagonia and I'm shooting Rasta, I sometimes find that a little bit tricky. I'm not really composing myself and relaxing, but whereas this landscape stuff that everybody is loving at the moment....well, that's the time, I think, just absorbing it all and I'm really feeling it.

Those sand dune shots with the ocean in the background have become signature shots of yours.
It's cool how that stemmed from that 'Natural Mathematics' shot. Yet I didn't plan that geometry at all. I just looked at that shot later on the computer and went, "Wow, there's some geometry going on in that".

That's where it all sort of started from.

Natural Mathematics

So you stumbled across it and then pursued the idea once you realised the power of the composition?
Yes. People love that, don't they?

It sat me on my arse the first time I saw it. It's so rare to see an original photo of the coast. It forced me to sit back and stare at it for a while. Now, let's talk about the exhibition. Who's it for and where's it at?
So it's called the Shimmer Festival and I got a phone call from a lady who's in the Onkaparinga Council. She's running it all. I'm not sure whether she's the founder of the festival itself, but she's the guiding force of it all, A year and a half ago she contacted me and said, "There's been a panel convene and your name's come up a couple of times. How do you feel about joining us in this photography festival?"

At the start I didn't really say, "Yes". I sort of just floated into it, I guess. So it's been a year and a half in the making I've known about it.

Have they pushed you in a certain way regarding the choice of photos or  is it entirely up to you?
Yes, it was my choice. I originally started with my analogue 'Dark Slide of the Moon' stuff, but then I did a U-Turn, decided to stick with more of my sand-dune, 'SA Rips' work, thinking that it would probably resonate more than the other, darker, stuff.

How many photos are you exhibiting?
12. It's my first exhibition so I'm going into it a little bit blind. I've never done anything like this. I started off with 22 I, and then got into the room and realised if I wanted to fit that many in they'd be staggered above each other. So I just went with 12 really big pieces.

They were pretty tricky to narrow down. I don't know how many shots I've got on my computer, I must have over 30,000 or something, so I've narrowed it down to 12. My partner, Fiona, she helped a lot. 

Blue Lines

Now, the opening night is tonight, is that correct?
Yes.  [Editor's Note: This interview was conducted last week]

How are you feeling about that?
I'm tired as I barely slept last night because I was thinking about it. They weren't nightmares or anything, but I was waking up in a sweat picturing myself at the show and there were no photos on the wall. That was weird. 

Like a different version of that nightmare where you're walking around in public with no clothes on, except in your version the walls are naked.
And I heard there's some big names coming tonight as well. I guess I had that in the back of my mind as well last night. I really want to make this night special, and I think it will be, everything looks pretty amazing up on the wall.

I'm sure they do.

The Shimmer Festival of Photography is hosted by Onkaparinga Council and runs till 11th October

Comments

SI's picture
SI's picture
SI commented Monday, 14 Sep 2020 at 4:16pm

Amazing photos! That Moon dune is incredible. The dream is also very interesting. The exhibition space - empty- all except the photographer!! What emerges is the photographer!! Go Richo; will always love your work.

Barrelrider

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups commented Monday, 14 Sep 2020 at 4:59pm

Great pics. It's rare to see something unique these days.

JQ's picture
JQ's picture
JQ commented Monday, 14 Sep 2020 at 6:46pm

Man these are great, like the unique work.

GuySmiley's picture
GuySmiley's picture
GuySmiley commented Monday, 14 Sep 2020 at 7:45pm

Great eye / photos

GuySmiley's picture
GuySmiley's picture
GuySmiley commented Monday, 14 Sep 2020 at 7:46pm

~notblip

billie's picture
billie's picture
billie commented Monday, 14 Sep 2020 at 7:56pm

Great stuff! I hope the exhibition is received with as much joy as I get out of his instagram page.

Billie

Troppo's picture
Troppo's picture
Troppo commented Monday, 14 Sep 2020 at 8:28pm

Epic photos. You can stare at them for ages and disappear in your own thoughts.
Love 'em!

derra83's picture
derra83's picture
derra83 commented Tuesday, 15 Sep 2020 at 7:21am

Aussie Ansel Adams.

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig commented Tuesday, 15 Sep 2020 at 8:09am

I've not seen than Moon Dune photo before, epic stuff Rippsy, hope the exhibition went well!

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Tuesday, 15 Sep 2020 at 9:27am

Beautiful. You can just stare at them for ages.

Some people just have an eye for a good pic. For example, the bloke just above me. Also, got a mate here, just uses his phone and he always nails cracking shots of anything. Seems like a natural intuition for some.

1173

Island Bay's picture
Island Bay's picture
Island Bay commented Tuesday, 15 Sep 2020 at 11:09am

Would love to go. It's a joy following Rich and his development.

batfink's picture
batfink's picture
batfink commented Tuesday, 15 Sep 2020 at 12:23pm

Beautiful works, the eye of the artist.

Phones cameras these days are so good you can easily pick off shots wherever you are. Mostly it is, as Mr Rips says, about being present, and looking for those shots.

My phone has no photos of plated up restaurant meals, very few party snaps, only a few people shots and about 95% shots of the clouds, skies, beaches and various natural settings. It’s a case of being open to it at all the time and you realise you will come across surreal and gorgeous moments quite often. If you are open to it.

Those dunes are just perfect frames though, and the geometry appeals to my slightly nerdy mathematics bent.

Mesmerising, as most of nature is. Well done, Sir.

shraz's picture
shraz's picture
shraz commented Tuesday, 15 Sep 2020 at 6:39pm

Ha ha fkn hippy nerd, wait.. sounds familiar...

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Tuesday, 15 Sep 2020 at 8:04pm

Give me hippy nerds over brain dead morons any day Shraz.

1173

blackers's picture
blackers's picture
blackers commented Tuesday, 15 Sep 2020 at 1:23pm

Nice. Love the “found a camera, found a calling” back story.

rooftop's picture
rooftop's picture
rooftop commented Tuesday, 15 Sep 2020 at 2:44pm

Beautiful shots.

Trentslatterphoto's picture
Trentslatterphoto's picture
Trentslatterphoto commented Tuesday, 15 Sep 2020 at 4:02pm

im calling bullshit on the taking photos for only 6 years claim,

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Tuesday, 15 Sep 2020 at 4:38pm

Ha ha ha...I'll take Rich on his word, but I'll admit to being surprised hearing that.

Roystein's picture
Roystein's picture
Roystein commented Tuesday, 15 Sep 2020 at 8:50pm

Not on Instagram anymore, but SArips was probably my favourite poster

Charlie Brown's picture
Charlie Brown's picture
Charlie Brown commented Wednesday, 16 Sep 2020 at 9:50am

He's still on there Roystein, he's just gone private. Send him a request, I'm sure he'll add you

Roystein's picture
Roystein's picture
Roystein commented Wednesday, 16 Sep 2020 at 6:09pm

Thanks Charlie, I should have been clearer, I’m not on insta anymore I mean.
SA and Rambo Estrada were both great to follow

bdp's picture
bdp's picture
bdp commented Tuesday, 15 Sep 2020 at 9:55pm

Missed out on my yearly Eyre Peninsula trip. Now holed up in the Melbourne Stage 4 with less than a dozen surfs to look back on this year.
I have a a couple of Richos photographs on my wall and they take me back there everytime I look up from my WFH desk. I'm not really a massive surf photography fan for the walls usually they focus on the surfer and you are the observer. but Richo's are all about the landscapes and really bring home the feeling of being there. The prints are great quality and I'm happy that my money is going to support this guys passion.

malibudutchie's picture
malibudutchie's picture
malibudutchie commented Wednesday, 16 Sep 2020 at 9:58am

Beautiful pics. Cheap DSLR and get lost in the desert - maybe thats the secret. He's got a great eye for sure.

malibudutchie